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within our reach, in such a sense that they may be hopefully pursued. Every man of this character will be regularly found acting diligently in useful business. To religion he will give the place, and importance in his pursuits, which it holds in his judg. ment. He, who possesses sobriety of mind in such a manner, as it can be possessed by one, who is not a Christian, will be awake, and alive, to the attainment of Christianity. To all the means of instruction, and impression, which he thinks will enlighten his understanding, or affect his heart, he will betake himself with anxiety, diligence and perseverance. If the subject of this character be already a Christian ; he will labour with all earnestness to make his calling and election sure. His efforts no length of time will lessen, no arguments delay, no difficulties discourage, and no obstacles overcome. His face will be set as a flint, in the pursuit of this great object; and when death arrives, he will be found vigorously engaged in the solemn employment.
This, if I mistake not, is peculiarly the character, here intended by St. Paul ; as being the end for which sobriety of mind is chiefly valuable. In whatever form it exists, it is no other than such a temperament of the soul, as leads us to regard the various things, with which we are conversant, agreeably to their importance; and to act accordingly: a temperament, resulting more from the disposition than from the understanding; and existing therefore as perfectly, and as often, where the intellect is limited, as where it is great. The man, in whom it exists, gives the business of life, as I have observed, a higher place in his estimation than its amusements; and the great interests of mankind, than their ordinary ones; those of the soul, than those of the body; and those of the future, than those of the present world. This regard is not mere, cold, uninterested speculations ; but a combination of thought and reflection, influencing the heart and the life. The sober minded man does not think, and reason, only; but feels also, and acts; as the comparative importance of the objects with which he is concerned, demands.
As the soul is infinitely more valuable than the body; as eternity is immeasurably more important than time ; the sober minded man will bend all his attention to the concerns of the soul, and all his efforts to the attainment of a happy eternity. Nothing will stand between him and the exertions, necessary to secure an interest in the everlasting love of God.
In this amazing pursuit Sobriety of mind is peculiarly manifested. Useful and commendable in all cases, it is here peculiarly useful and honourable.
The man, who possesses this character in the happy and Evangelical degree, here specified, will never be contented to stop short of the highest attainments, and the richest consolations, which can be acquired by a life of piety. Originally, when he betook himself to a just and solemn consideration of the things, which belonged to his peace, he discovered a rational, stedfast concern for his salvation; a realizing sense of his guilt, and danger ; a high value for an interest in the Saviour; a sua preme regard to the favour of God; an earnest desire to flee from the wrath to come ; and a settled determination to lay hold on eternal life. All these things appeared in him, not as the impulse of sudden passions, but as the steady, vigorous energy of the mind; directed in this manner, from solid conviction, that thus to act was wise, and right. Accordingly, he did not, like a false blossom, make a fair show for a few days in the spring, and then fall, and wither, without yielding any fruit. Far from this, he appeared more and more beautiful, and promising, until the fruits of righteousness succeeded, and clustered, in abundance. After his entrance into the kingdom of God, such a man keeps the great subjects of resisting temptation, avoiding sin, and advancing in holiness, ever in view. In the pursuit of them he neglects no means, and spares no endeavours. In his closet, at his bible, in the house of God, in the company of the wise and good, in his solitary walks, and even in the crowded haunts of business, he labours faithfully, and diligently, to grow in wisdom and in grace, and to advance daily towards the heavenly world, and the heavenly character. Religion, with him, does not pro
ceed by fits and starts ; now bursting with the violence of a torrent, and now stagnant with the sluggishness of a pool ; at sometimes full of earuiestness and zeal, and at others absorbed, and lifeless, in the concerns of time and sense. It is a flame, kindled, to burn steadily ; to shine always; to grow brighter, the longer it continues; until it shall apparently expire in death, to be lighted up again with superior and immortal splendour. I do not mean, that all Christians are alike possessed of this uniform, and evenly improving, character; nor that unequal professors, whose passions are suddenly heated, and cooled, are not often Christians ; nor that the most uniform Christians do not, at times shine feebly, and obscurely. What I intend is, that the sobriety of mind, enjoined in the text, is in its nature such, as I have represented ; and that those, in whom it most prevails, exhibit most a fair resemblance to this representation. I will now proceed,
II. To suggest several Reasons for the adoption of this character by the Youths, who are now before me.
In the 1st place, One of these Reasons, of vast importance is; their situation demands it.
The youths, before me, have entered upon the beginning of eternal existence; and will be holy or sinful, happy or miserable, forever. Each has a soul, committed to his own peculiar care. The value of that soul is inconceivable. It is infinite. The world, nay the universe, weighed against it, is nothing. To each, also, it is his all. It claims therefore, it deserves, all your attention, all your labours, all your prayers. If it is lost ; you are undone forever. If it is saved; you are made rich, happy, and glorious, throughout ages which will know no end. What situation can be more solemn than this; or can more imperiously demand the combined exertion of all your powers?
At the same time your earthly concerns are not to be forgotten. They, too, have their importance. To neglect them is neither your interest, nor your duty. Happily for you, the attention, which they really demand, is in no degree inconsistent with the effectual promotion of your eternal welfare. The same
sobriety of mind, which is so useful to the advancement of your heavenly interests, is the direct means of your earthly prosperity. To the acquisition of knowledge, property, reputation, and influence, it is as auspicious as to your holiness, and happiness, beyond the grave.
2. Without Sobriety of mind, your Interests of both time and eternity, will be neglected and lost.
Levity of disposition is the certain road to poverty, trouble, and disgrace. He, who makes amusement his business, will become a beggar of course; and be compelled to creep through life in want, insignificance, and contempt. It is impossible, that he should acquire reputation, or be useful to mankind, or even to himself. If property be thrown into his hands by his parents, or by the events of Providence, it will be squandered by him; if not, it will never be acquired. Steadiness of thought, and constancy of exertion, are indispensable to the acquisition, and still more to the preservation, of wealth ; and, equally to the attain. ment of all other earthly good.“ Seest thou a man diligent in his business?" said the most exact observer of human life, whom the world has ever seen," he shall stand before kings : he shall not stand before mean men.”
To your immortal concerns these observations are applicable with equal force. To the very nature of these concerns lightness of mind is a direct, and unchanging enemy. He, who will not be serious, will never be virtuous. Every thing, relating to your eternal interests, is in the highest degree solemn, nay awful, and amazing. Heaven and hell, the great Being, who made us, provoked by our sins, and denouncing against us the vengeance of eternal fire; the glorious Redeemer of mankind, descending with infinite love, to die for us ; our own character, as fallen, condemned creatures, who are yet invited to return to God, and obtain an inheritance in his everlasting love ; are subjects, solemn and impressive beyond expression. They repel all inconsideration; claim irresistibly the deepest concer; and demand the most ardent pursuit. To a light minded man they say
at a great distance, and with awful authority, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.”
3. The present is the best Time to secure this disposition ; especially, as it respects your immortal interests.
You are now disinclined to pay any serious attention to your eternal well being. Every day you live, you will be more disinclined. The difficulties in your way to salvation are now such, as prevent you from begining this mighty work. Every future day, they will be greater. Now the subject is unwelcome to you, to morrow it will be disgusting.
Look back upon your past lives. Has religion become more agreeable to you by the flight of time? Has the past year rendered it more pleasing ? Are you more sober minded ? Is the character of God more interesting to you? Is Christ more desirable ? Do you regard your souls with more affection ? Are you more willing to ask for blessings? Are you more constant, or more fervent, in your prayers ? Does the eye of God see, does his ear hear, proofs of any such reformation? Does he not, on the contrary, behold you still seriously engaged about nothing, but pleasure; and still trifling away your day of probation?
But, if during the year past, you have not advanced a single step towards heaven, is it not plain, that, so long as your present disposition continues, you will never advance a single step? Do not you yourselves believe, that your character must be changed; that your lightness of mind must give place to the sobriety, enjoined in the text; that you must no longer be fascinated by amusements; that
you must turn your eyes, and summon your affections, to the interests of the soul ; must weigh time against eternity, and earth against heaven and hell? All the aged, and middle aged, around you were once young, as you now are. They were as hopeful; and gave as fair a promise of future good. Every advantage, which you possess, they enjoyed : and God encircled them with privileges, and blessings. But how many, whom you know, have neglected all their privileges, and but too probably lost them forever? How many have become fixed in evil habits, and evil pursuits ; and have yielded themselves finally